Before Matt Smith regenersneezed into Peter Capaldi, Steven Moffat explained to fans, “It’ll be the traditional regeneration. You know, the eleventh will fall and the twelfth shall rise. And you’ll see that in the closing moments of the show.” Though not strictly a typical Moffaty-woffaty fib, most of the regenerating actually occurred earlier in the episode, as the Doctor blasted the Dalek ships to smithereens with his newly acquired regeneration energy. But what of the future? We pray that we will not have to say ciao to Capaldi for many a year to come, but how might his Doctor change into his eventual successor? In the meantime, let’s try and innovate the whole process of regeneration!
The Doctor’s Position
In the classic series, regeneration was almost always lying down. It was a moment of weakness, with the Doctor a broken man. That changed with Eccleston’s Doctor. Standing tall proudly, with arms outstretched, it was almost celebratory, showing off even – almost “Look at me! Look at my Time Lord trick!” Jacobi’s Master was the same. “The Master reborn!” he exclaimed, to then dance merrily round his console, now in his new off-the-wall John Simm version. Tennant’s Doctor adopted the same upright pose as he became Eleven.
If it’s not lying or standing, what about sitting? Squatting mystically and monk-like in a trance? Floating in the air? Leaning against the Tardis coatstand? We’re getting silly. But it could be a regeneration in motion. Running is always exciting. Falling through the air as Twelve and landing as Thirteen would be novel. Regenerative energy would protect him from any impact. Alternatively, the regeneration could be traumatic, with the Doctor flinching, staggering in pain around the Tardis, changing gradually as he moves. Regenerating under water, swimming like Ace in “Fenric” with a sodden Thirteen stumbling out of the sea? I personally like the idea of spinning. Too “Wonder Woman” perhaps? Imagine the scene. The Doctor performs a confident spin, then again, and again, faster and faster which becomes a blur of motion and burst of blinding light, and Thirteen staggers dizzily out, uttering some clever Moffat witticism.
How does the Doctor regenerate? In recent years we’ve had the traditional explosion of regenerative energy. In the distant past we had all sorts, like blurring for Pertwee to Baker and funny faces even, when Sylvester gurned goodbye. But how can we shake things up? Is morphing too old-fashioned? What about seeing bodily and facial attributes change one by one, like when the Teselector became the Nazi guard in “Let’s Kill Hitler”? First the eyes, then the nose, mouth and hair with the Doctor gaining or losing body mass at the end. What if the Doctor speaks during the process?
“Time and the Rani” had the Doctor change at the beginning of the story and the TV movie in the middle. Davison became progressively worse for wear due to Spectrox in “Caves” and in a sense stretched out his regeneration through the whole story. I believe that when Capaldi hangs up his red-lined coat for the last time, viewers will want to have a full episode of the departing Doctor. And no rubbery make up this time please! Battered and bruised is fine, but we want to see every expression, every subtlety, every nuance on Capaldi’s furrowed brow, before we finally bid him farewell.
This of course is the most important and most memorable factor in a Doctor’s regeneration. The Second was forced to change by the Time Lords after his trial, the Fourth fell from on high and the Seventh was shot. The Third, Ninth and Tenth all regenerated due to some kind of energy or radiation and frankly it was getting a little bit boring. Fortunately the Eleventh’s body just aged and died, similar to the First Doctor. But what fate will befall Capaldi? Something signposted during the story or a random event out of the blue? Whatever it is, it must be original. Something that the classic series couldn’t do for budgetary or technical reasons. Something Nu-Who hasn’t done yet.
Falling out of a Tardis in flight? Being turned into a monster like Peri in “Mindwarp” and having to regenerate himself back into a Time Lord? Saving himself from a Cyber conversion? Merging himself into another Time Lord to save the other’s life? A regeneration triggered, not by some physical affliction, but a mental one? The Doctor must save himself from madness? Possessed by an evil entity and only regeneration can blast it out of existence? Or gruesomely tortured to death, in true Holmesian or Sawardian style, like poor Edmund in the last episode of “Black Adder the First”. An adventure inside his own body, like in “The Invisible Enemy”, to prevent himself becoming the Valeyard? What if the Thirteenth Doctor himself was hatching inside, feeding off and possessing the Twelfth? We could have the voice of the Thirteenth inside the Doctor’s head, haunting him, similar to the Master and Yana in “Utopia”.
Whatever the circumstances of Peter Capaldi’s departure, we sincerely hope that they will be worthy of such a great actor and most beloved Doctor.